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Nadya Lunălescu

IC: A Relicking Good Time

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Nadya's pencil beat a rapid tattoo on her binder, eagerly waiting for the last class of the day to end. Her page of notes had devolved into a hieroglyphic representation of some Rube Goldbergian monstrosity used to purloin... something. Nadya wasn't a particularly good artist. It might have been a document stating she owned Amazon entirely or a reverse giraffe. Her eyes were on the clock rather than her doodles. She swore she'd seen the minute hand move backwards a tick - which would have been far from the strangest thing she'd ever seen, especially recently.

The bell rang and Nadya was out of the door before the chime finishing chiming, a dusk-coloured sirocco in chunky heels, her phone practically materializing into her hand. The teacher was death on students who played with their phones during class, and Nadya hadn't been about to risk having a gift from her mother taken away, even for a few hours, maybe a day. Beyond that, no phone! Shudder.

Neither she nor Grimes had a shift at From Dusk Til Pawn today, and she was pretty sure the rest of the Band was free too. They'd better be, or they'd miss out on Big Fugly's broken ruby heart. It was time to talk to talk to Archie about the shards leftover from their take down of the Cherokee Spearfinger. Okay, okay, it was waaaay past time. She hadn't been hoarding them for herself. Really, honest. She'd just been... y'know, trying to see if she could figure out what to do with them on her own. Independent Study. It hadn't gone too well. Okay, it hadn't gone at all, since all her ideas about research on this stuff lead right back to Archie... which was right where she was ending up going, anyway.

<We got some mats. Gotta find out where to go with them to make them into stuff. Meet up at Archie's> Nadya tapped out briskly on her phone then texted to the Band.

Actually, Grimes hadn't even been there, but it would seem kinda rude and backhanded to uninvite him now, especially since she was his ride today. Can you say awkward? He could get the smallest piece of shattered ruby monster heart.

When Nadya started getting close to the rather too impressive library for Salem High, she slowed her brisk pace to one more lackadaisical and aimless, them slipped inside while no one was looking. She couldn't be seen to be wanting to go to the library, even if she had been going there a lot more often as of late. She ghosted through the stacks to where Archimedes laired.

"Hey, Archie! You around?" Nadya trilled lightly as she looked around for the erstwhile librarian and god. "You said come see you if I - we - wanted to start on that 'independent study' you mentioned."

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"In the back, Nadya," Archimedes called back to her, which was not uncommon these days as he was always occupied with one thing or another.  Nadya snaked her way around book carts and past a shelf or two, taking only a moment to look overhead at the dazzling mural of the six pantheons painted upon the ceiling like the Sistine chapel.  She could hear him speaking as she approached and noticed a young woman sitting at a table while he stood, leaning against a shelf.  "...was hoping to have more to explain all this to you, but you've been brought into this conflict at a rather interesting time," as Nadya came into view he pushed himself from the shelf and came to offer her his attention.  "Ah, Nadya, just in time."

He gestured to the lovely young woman with cocoa skin and beautiful eyes.  "Perhaps you know Dale, already, but, she's received her visitation and her father has requested she be 'indoctrinated', as it were."  He nodded and with a stroke of his chin took a moment to consider Nadya's opening comment.  "Yes, actually, I had forgotten all about that.  You're timing couldn't be better either, Maurice was planning on moving on soon.  You and the others might be able to convince him to stay while providing Dale with about as much of an introductory into her new life as any."

"Be happy," Nadya smirked.  "Our first time was a zombie hoard."

Archie smirked, nodding.  "Nadya, Dale.  Dale, Nadya.  Maurice is currently laired along the cliffs of Fort Pickering Beach.  Mortals can't see it, but he's dwelling in a cave not far from from the park.  You can't miss it.  He's a bit eccentric, and a Titanspawn, but he's-."

"On our side, right, I got it."  Nadya said confidently.

"A side.  Do try to keep the others in check.  Present to him the trophies you acquired from Spear-Finger and he will take care of the rest."

Nadya looked at her Guide skeptically.  "It can't be that easy.  He just makes things for free?"

"Well," Archie shrugged and she knew he wasn't permitted to tell her too much, only guide her.  "We both know that really depends on him.  Nevertheless, Dale please listen to them.  They've been through a great deal bit more than you," he looked to Nadya and gave her a very serious look.  "And I don't think I need to point out that the other gods are starting take notice of whatever Marius is planning.  You'll need all the help you can get."

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Dale felt... agitated. A lot of new faces. She wasn't quite used to Salem yet, only having visited her uncle a couple times before. She glanced at the dark-haired girl who approached the table, from heels to head, her gaze briefly pausing on Nadya's eyes, then a charming smile drew on her features as she greeted her. Her light gray halterneck didn't quite mask her cleavage, almost flirting with the school's dress code, but the black jacket - thick leather - she was wearing made up for it. From under the table one could guess the black motorcycle boots - and its thick treads with two inches heels - partly covered by kevlar jeans.

"Hey, Nadya." The smile didn't quite reach her eyes, but one could feel it was genuine. It grew wider with mischief as she asked them both : "So... you talked about a... band ? I assume it's not about music, or else you completely lost me... You guys hunting... los anormal ?" Her features tensed at the last words.

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"We don't have to."  Grim said as he came into view, a couple of books under one lean, scar-covered arm.  The statement did contain a smidgeon of humour, but the dry tone with which the statement was made was far older than was warranted, coming as it did from a raw-boned young man who was no older than the two girls present.  Mismatched green and grey eyes peered at those present as his thin lips twitched in an expression of dark amusement, the scar bisecting his grey eye lending the expression a sardonic air.  "The titanspawn are more than happy to come hunting for us.  Generally, however, it's better to seek them out first."

Grim still walked with a limp, though the constant physical therapy and conditioning he was undergoing at the not-so-gentle hands of Coach Fingers was paying off.  Nadya noted that, though still painfully thin-seeming, the scion of Odin had actually put on height and mass since their first meeting the day after Homecoming, a thing difficult to perceive given that the dour teenager habitually wore that oversized blue duster.  Right now, however, said duster was draped over the back of a nearby chair and even the baggy grey t-shirt wasn't able to completely shroud the lines of his shoulders.  Of course, being made to stand up straight and stop slouching by a bellowing Scion of Ares would likely do that too.

"Ahh, Grimsley.  I was wondering when you would emerge from the stacks."  Archimedes tried to sound reproving, but couldn't quite keep the smile from his voice.  Himself a lover of knowledge for its own sake, the hungry mind of Salem High's second-newest god-child was a pleasant break from the kicking and screaming Nadya (for example) would emit when told to open a book.  Admittedly, Odin's son pursued knowledge with the grim (no pun intended) single-minded determination of a hunter tracking a mysterious beast's spoor, particularly knowledge of the occult and arcane.  Archie reflected that Evelyn was a good teacher for him, both for her facility with mysticism and for the cautionary tales she could provide from her own experiences.  He took in the titles under Grim's arm and raised a brow.  "Did Evelyn suggest those?"

"Yeah."  Grim held them up as though to elicit permission.  "Is that okay?"  he added as a courteous afterthought.  Archie pursed his lips, narrowing his eyes, then nodded slowly.

"Usual rules apply, of course."  He stated, and Grim nodded.  The books were not to be left unattended where others could find them.  They were to be returned as they had been borrowed.  In many cases, Archie would not even allow students to leave the library with these tomes, but Grim had demonstrated respectful care for Archie's collection in the past, and so would be extended trust until such time as he abused it.  "And this is..."

"Dale.  Yes."  Grim fixed the new girl with a sharp, penetrating stare from under his careless mop of black hair.  "And we're going to meet with Maurice.  I'm looking forward to it."  A ghost of a smile touched the pale lips, which also carried a razor-thin scar that slanted across the corner of the boy's mouth.  "Nice to meet you, Dale."

"And that's the warm Grimsley welcome."  Nadya rolled her eyes, smirking.

"I was nice."  Grim protested mildly as he took a seat, his eyes gleaming with humor as they settled into their game of bickering.  "I even said that it was nice to meet her.  What, should I hire a marching band?"

"Dane would."  Nadya grinned, knowing that referring to the taller, buffer, handsomer and more personable Aesir would nettle Grim a little, even if he didn't show it.  She perched her posterior on the edge of the table, winking at Dale to let her know this was business as usual and making a show of 'casually' pulling one of the books towards her to peek at.

"Dane would hire a gorilla-gram."  Grim returned with a sly smile that gave him a foxish air as he, equally 'casually', took the book back and slid it and it's fellow into his satchel.  "Whereas Rachel will doubtless huff and throw a tantrum that she wasn't consulted."

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Austin was relatively happy.   Things had been going well enough, despite the escape of the witches, and them dancing to Marius' tune.   When he thought Okay, so maybe not so good, but none of us are dead, Nadya's back to herself and we've got something to show for our efforts.  That counts as a win in my book.

He was the third of the Band to show up at Archie's, coming in slightly after Grim, and caught the tail-end of his and Nadya's back and forth.  "Dane would probably put on the gorrilla suit."   He looked to the others, and nodded Rachel's not that bad."  When he got a look from the other two, Austin shrugged.  "Okay, so she can be abit intense, and yeah, that's not always a good thing.  She comes around eventually.   i say the more the merrier, because Each of us brings something unique to the table."   Austin was  surprised by yet another new scion, but smiled amiably to Dale.   "It's nice to meet you.  I'm Austin Lange."

 

 

 

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"In fairness, she's making progress." Fisher insisted, popping out after Austin. "The thing you need to understand about Rachel," Fisher calmly went on, putting away a metal water bottle he'd finished drinking from back into his backpack's side pocket, "is that while she can be intense, once she's warmed up to you, there's no more dedicated person you'll find in your corner." He was used to smoothing things over until the acclimation period finished, even if Grim wasn't acknowledging that he'd made it through her adjustment period.

"I'm Fisher Capra. Welcome Dale, and we'll help you through the madness." Dale could pick up there was something endearing and comforting about his presence, even Grim seeming to relax slightly. This was an honest to goodness nice guy.

"To answer your questions, this isn't the X-Files. It's Percy Jackson, except all the major pantheons of legend are around, and there's no Camp Half-Blood. There is however a war and monsters to slay. And today, we learn how to turn our trophies into lovely magic items, since Nadya finally decided to stop hoarding the literally shattered heart of Spearfinger, the twisted Cherokee spirit we brought down."

"I wasn't hoarding! I was conducting independent study!" Nadya protested, hands up, but clearly Fisher, rolling his eyes, wasn't fooled. "Nadya, you act like hearing the word 'study' gives you a rash. Actually, I'm certain the only reason you'd study is if it would magically make Mercedes Rhodes burst into hives." Unsurprisingly, Nadya started envisioning that glorious image.

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The delight on Nadya's face wasn't just for picturing a hive-ridden particular daughter of Aphrodite. If Fisher - and most others - thought study was anathema - another word-a-day word - to her, that was more than fine with her. And was the intent. While admittedly, her studying at school was... inconsistent at best, you couldn't pull off a good con or heist without at least some planning, even if you had to expect to adapt when things inevitably went wrong.

“Yeah, well, you know, that’s just, like, your opinion, man.” Nadya glanced back over her shoulder at the ancient arithmetician. "Just one more teensy thing, Archie, Maurice, yeah, Titanspawn, got it, but what exactly is he?"

The svelte and wiry young woman perked up on her perch on the edge of the table, giving the impression of clapping excitedly without actually moving her hands. "Is he dwarf? Like an actual dwarf, not a little person? He's a dwarf, isn't he? We should at least bring him a case of beer or something."

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"Need I remind you," Archibald cut in with a sharp glare towards Nadya.  "That while you are children of the gods, you are still children.  At least by the measure of mortal society.  I would hate to consider any of you using your natural wit and charms to procure alcohol while still under age.  While I certainly can not stop you, I'd advise against it.  Consider for a moment that you have an entire city from which to hide your supernal nature from.  Do exercise a bit of discretion."

"Maurice is not a dwarf."  He pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose as he addressed the crowd.  "Unfortunately dwarves are union, and while their work is certainly without peer, getting them to do anything without a arranged contract is nearly impossible.  Given the time these items were sat upon, I could not, unfortunately, book the dwarves' assistance.  I was, however, able to acquire, um...,"  He seemed to force a smile of reassurance onto his face.  "Maurice.  He's um... good.  He's good."  The God of Arithmetic didn't seem to convinced with his appraisal.  "Really, though, you should just go meet him.  I'm your watcher after all, I'm not supposed to be spilling secrets, just guiding you."

"Laaaaame,"  Nadya side-eyed the divine librarian with a suspicious squint.

"Alright, fine," Archibald smirked.  "I just want you to see for yourselves.  You're not the only ones who get to be a pain in the backside."

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The dwarves are unionized? Fisher decided to see if he could incorporate that into the tabletop game he was running. Meanwhile, he supposed he couldn't begrudge Mr. Syracuse for his secrecy. Even if Rachel felt like the librarian God and the other faculty were being ass pains by rotating extra people through their Band, even if as a show of faith in their good character, since you obviously couldn't use the Donner Party as role models.

"Alright." Fisher smiled back. "Where do we go to meet him then?"

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"Along the cliffs of Fort Pickering Beach."  Nadya and Grim said almost in unison, with just enough discordance that it made them both stop and glower at each other for a moment.  Then Nadya opened her mouth to continue - and Grim did likewise half an eyeblink behind her, the verbal equivalent of treading on someone's heels.

"-a cave not far from the park-"

"...park-"

"Do you mind?!"  the pretty daughter of Bast glared at Odin's son, who smiled disingenuously.

"Not at all."  he indicated for her to go ahead.  She gave him a narrow-eyed look, then snorted in apparent satisfaction and turned back to Fisher, opening her mouth-

"Mortals have trouble seeing Maurice's lair, but we can't miss it."  Grimsley finished the info-dump a second before Nadya could speak, causing her to stamp one of the absurdly-chunky-soled boots that currently accounted for four inches of her apparent height.  He smiled, very faintly, as he stood and slid his dark blue coat on, then shouldered his satchel.

"Ugh!"  Nadya's protest was expressive, as was the annoyed toss of her hair and irritated pout.  "You suck so bad, Glumsley."

"Sorry.  I thought you were done."  he peered at her in mock-surprise from under his mop of tousled dark hair.  "Were you not done?  I could have sworn you were done."  He glanced around at the others, then back at Nadya.  The ghost of a sly smile still hung around his lips and glinted in the verdant green of his right eye.  "Sorry.  Go ahead.  I'll stay quiet."  Nadya stared at him, then folded her arms and turned her head away with an audible 'hmmph'.  Still with admirable lack of smiling or grinning at his teasing of his friend, Grim looked at the others.  "Guess there's nothing more to say.  Shall we get going to Fort Pickering Beach, then?"

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Austin gave a bemused chuckle at the two of them, and sighed.   "Sure.   Anyone who wants to ride along with me is welcome to."  His jeep had plenty of room, and while he wasn't the only one with a vehicle, he knew he had more comfortable room than others.   

Austin didn't doubt Archie's assessment of Maurice, but at the same time, the way he spoke of him, well that led him to wonder.   Not so much Maurice's competency, but his personality.   He was no stranger to eccentrics, but at the same time, Archie didn't really react quite like that when he spoke of the others.   "This oughta be good."

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It wasn't a long drive, honestly, most places in Salem could be gotten to on a bike or on foot, but driving certainly saved a lot of time.  The small beach was located not far from a sea food shack that all of them knew had amazing take-out shrimp.  They crossed the barrier that separated the take-out place's parking lot and did the shimmy down the steep slope of rocks and gravel that led to the beach where the water lapped the shore slowly as the cool beach sands soaked it up like a sponge.

It the distance they could hear it, which was strange because they never heard anything before coming this way, but it sounded like the ringing of a pneumatic press thumping down upon metal and a shaping hammer pounding away.  "Weird," Nadya pointed out.  "Do you guys hear that?  How come we never noticed it before?"

"Because weren't looking before."  Fisher replied calmly.  "That's how this works.  Mortals are ignorant of the goings on of titanspawn and the gods because of the Veil.  Works the same for us, too, I imagine.  We didn't think about looking for Maurice here, so, as long as we reamain blissfully ignorant, the Veil keeps him hidden from us."

Austin slid down the rocks and scooped up a few and skipped them across the ocean's surface.  The sight of it filled him with swelling pride and an inner strength.  "That's an unsettling thought," he added while a rock skipped far more times than it should have, as if the water was playing along with him.  "How many other lairs could be hidden from us, from far more dangerous things than this..." unsure what to refer to Maurice as, Austin shrugged.  "Guy?"

"Asking things like that is a great way to bring unwanted trouble."  Grim slid down, taking care with his injured leg and hoisting himself up with it once he arrived on the sands.  "Let us not dwell on it, lest we inspire some Muse of tragedy to provide an answer we weren't really looking for."

Everyone silently nodded in agreement with Grim as Nadya's fists rested on her hips.  "Slick little guy, would you look at that?"  She pointed down the way, towards the slop of rocks they all just slid down and sure enough, about fifty yards down the way the all saw the Veil lift with a wavering shimmer in the air, like a dream or a mirage fading from view... in a few moments, all that remained was a large a concrete drain pipe only half exposed in a large arch nearly nine feet in height, common for when the numerous ponds and surrounding wooded areas flooded and the ground water was routed to the ocean where it could safely drain.  This drain didn't seem like it would be draining anytime soon, as it was blocked by a massive brick wall that had build about ten feet within the pipe with a massive set of double doors that was beautifully ornamented with stained, smoked glass and bronze filigree work set within the glass.  It honestly looked like the sort of door one could buy at Home Depot for several thousand dollars... if Home Depot sold doors for people who were nearly ten feet tall.  About six feet up on the side of the doors was a doorbell that seemed out of place.  It was a big, plastic, Mike Wazowski, and it looked like activated it by pressing his eye ball.

"Definitely not a dwarf..." Fisher sighed.

The constant sounds of hammering and smashing came from beyond the doors.  Like scared kids at the haunted house on Halloween they all found themselves standing a bit closer together as they looked up at the doors, seeking safety among each other should the portal burst open and their worst fears be realized.  Finally Nadya shook everyone off her and gave them all a look as if they should all be ashamed.

"Guys!  Relax!"  She threw up her amrs in protest of their unspoken worries.  "Maurice is on our side, right?  Archie would not send us to our doom.  We really need to get a grip.  Chill."  She carelessly pressed the eye of Mike Wazowski in typical Nadya fashion.  Over the hammering and tinging of metal they heard, in full stereo and possibly HD surround sound, 'Mike Wazowski!', shouted by Boo.

The tinging and hammering stopped.

Heavy footsteps could be heard thundering towards the door and despite Nadya's confidence, everyone seemed ready for a battle.  The door swung open and massive, chocolate colored man stood in the threshold.  He was easily eight and half feet with thick arms and fore arms and adorned in a simple tank top displaying the continent of Africa in red, black and green, along with cargo shorts with a pair of sandals.  Thick dreadlocks adorned his head, but they were all tied back, probably to protect from the heat of his work.  A braided goat-tee hung several inches down his chin and the one eye set in the center of his was almost as much as an identifying feature as the massive sliff, as long and thick as Nadya's forearm, resting comfortably in the corner of his mouth.  The orb in the center of his head moved to focus on them.

"Ah, wa gwaan.  Di pickney."  The cyclop's voice was a deep baritone that seemed echoed off the tunnels walls.  His eyebrow raised slightly, tilting to one side, signifying he knew they had no idea what he just said.  He sighed.  "I sed 'allo.  You must be di kids, yeh?  I, Maurice.  Archie make di talk of you, said you come by.  No say why."

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Even Nadya was at a lost for words, for a moment at least. Dude was big. True, Spearfinger had been taller, but super fugly, with stony, scaling skin that desperately needed some top line moisturizer. But Maurice looked way more, er, human, which made his sheer mass even more imposing. He kinda looked like a bigger, buffer, Terry Crews, y'know, except for the dreads and single eye.

And Nadya couldn't help but wonder with fascinated unease what he was packing in his cargo shorts that were entirely too close to face level.

Good on you, Archie, good on you. Maurice wasn't a dwarf, but Nadya wasn't disappointed.

Nadya gave herself a little shake then craned her neck to meet his eye, a cheery grin spreading wide on her face. What did he use for a pair of shades when he went out in the sun?

"My man! Maurice!" Nadya crowed, holding out (and up) a hand for a fist bump. Maurice seemed bemused, but obliged, the disparity in sizes of their fists delightfully ludicrous. "We da - we are the kids, fer sure. Archie gave us your name, but neglected a few details. I'm Nadya, and these are my Band mates."

She quickly gave the Rastafarian Cyclops the names of the rest of the party, then reached into her satchel and pulled out one of the bigger shards of what appeared to be pure ruby, and letting him see there were more. The shattered remnants of the heart of Cherokee myth that had been way too real. But then again, all the myths seemed to be.

"And we're here 'bout this, big guy," Nadya said, holding up the shard for Maurice's inspection, though ready to snatch it back in case he tried to swipe it. "The Heart of Spearfinger. Archie said you're the man to make something out of it."

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"Di Speafinga?"  He nodded.  "Respect.  Not easy kill."  His deep baritone was a strange mixture of Greek and, possibly, Jamaican?  His English seemed broken, but still for a giant he was pretty well mannered and educated, which opened up a whole series of questions all its own.  "Di Speafinga... vera sad story.  Enter and we take a look at what you have, yeh?"

He motioned for them to follow him and he led them down a 'hallway' of concrete sewer pipe that opened into a large cylindrical chamber that was maybe half of a basket ball court in size.   Along the walls seemed everything he needed to live.  With the center of the area reserved for what appeared to be a dinning area, from there the whole chamber seemed divided into a pie where sections were dedicated to sleeping, preparing, forging and working, lounging and... of all things, bathing, which seemed out of character for a giant, but the massive Jacuzzi certainly did seem comfortable.  He seemed to be living the good life and was nothing like the stories they'd heard up to this point as giants being unintelligent and savage brutes.  Everything in this place seemed sized for him, which led one to wonder of there was an actual Home Depot or Wal-Mart for giants.

"Soda?  Beer?" The large man asked them as he welcomed them with an inviting sweep of his arm.  "Scions, yeh?  No spirits or lesser gods?  Mi guess.  Parent come bu, say allo, den dey leave y'to y'own, yeh?"  He pointed for Nadya to drop all she was carrying on his work bench, which she did with a slight rattle of her pack turned upside down.  "Di 'art o'Speafinga... very powerful.  So much love within such a small ting."

"Love?"  Austin asked, confused.  "She was a monster who ate children."

"Just dey livers."  Maurice said with a shrug.  "She sing for ya?"  The teenagers shook their heads silently.  "Ah, see?  Dere y'go.  To 'ear 'er sing... dat would 'ave told ya all you needed to know.  Not'ing void of love could sing so beautifully."

"You almost sound like you admire her," Nadya added.

"Er song, 'er voice, per'aps.  Love in di 'art, darkness in di soul.  Bad balance 'dere."  He shrugged again as he sorted the ruby pieces and held aloft with his thick fingers Spearfinger's actual spear finger.  A massively huge talon, black as obsidian and hard as stone.  "I can work dis, but it'll take me some time."

"We haven't much to offer in payment," Grim stated, knowing that nothing in the World came without a price attached to it.

Maurice waved his hand dismissively.  "I owe Archimedes.  Help you as a favor to 'im.  Y'seem like okay pickneys."

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Fisher had to clamber slightly to raise himself up across Maurice's oversized fridge in order to reach a can of the ginger ale that was, simply put, four times the size of a normal human being's container of fizzy soda brew. It gave him a chance to collect his thoughts and make sense of what Maurice said. On the one hand, it seemed impossible to connect the idea of love and art to a being that killed children and ate their livers without the slightest sense of remorse. And, if Fisher was being honest, almost killed him.

A phantom remnant of that agony from his broken neck signaled through his body, though Fisher thankfully had his feet solidly on the ground at that point. Then again, Maurice and Wolf were proof that being titanspawn or nemeans did not mean unintelligent, or devoid of the ability to communicate, or care. Still there was a large difference between them and Spearfinger. As Maurice said, the monster of Cherokee legend had darkness in the soul.

Well, the best villains weren't one-dimensional in stories, but it was easier to think of them that way in real life. Especially when they did horrible things. Fisher took his mind away from philosophical brooding and turned his hopeful, interested gaze on Maurice and the subject of crafting. "What do you think you can make from it?"

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He'd remained silent so far, letting the others handle talking to the cyclops.  Despite his admirable poker face, Grim had almost taken a step back when Maurice had opened the door.  The monstrously sized humanoid reminded him uncomfortably of the trolls, and his fingers had tightened almost reflexively on the black wood stave as his heart rate had jumped a notch.  Rationality saved him, the realisation that Maurice was a Cyclops, not a Troll, and that the Cyclops were, according to myth, the artisans and workmen of the Greek gods.

That, and the dreadlocks and Rastafarian garb and accent.  The incongruity of it was enough to jar him from the threat response the creature's sheer size had almost provoked.

More settled now as Maurice and the others spoke back and forth, Grim likewise grabbed a bottle from the fridge, but was so distracted rubbernecking around the workshop that it wasn't until he sat down that he realised he'd grabbed a bottle of Guinness West Indies porter, not a soda.  Screw it, he thought, and knocked off the cap against a workbench before sitting on a convenient surface and taking a pull.  It was bitter, and dark, and... surprisingly good, actually.  Ahh, the Aesir genes coming through, he thought to himself wryly as he took another drink.

"You said Spearfinger's story was a sad one."  he said, speaking for the first time since they'd entered the workshop.  He watched Maurice intently - not with suspicion, but with curiosity, attempting to discern what the giant humanoid was doing with the pieces of the monster previously vanquished and, more importantly, how he was doing it.  To be able to create Relics, or even have knowledge of how they were created, was a useful thing.  Also, he was curious about the perspective of the cyclops, now that his initial fear was mostly conquered.  Keen eyes flickered from Maurice to the tools and devices on the bench before him.  "I've never heard it.  Do you mind sharing it?"

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Austin was silently in awe of Maurice's home.   The guy was living the dream it seemed, and he was perfectly happy and at home.    He had been about to say something regarding Spearfinger, but others beat him to it.  

When Maurice spoke of balance, and doing this as a favor to Archie, well it was nice, since he didn't really see what they could offer to him to pay themselves.  He was inwardly annoyed by that, their continued reliance on others.  Still they were young, inexperienced, and he surmised this was why Archie was here.  Not so much to pave the way, but to help them make these connections, to offer advice since their parents couldn't get too involved.

When Grim asked about the story of Spearfinger, he nodded.  "I confess my own ignorance there as well.  I'd like to hear the story too, if you have time and don't mind."

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"You confess your own ignorance der as well?"  Maurice repeated what Austin what said and let out a bellow of laughter.  "You speak, but I don'tink you understand what you say.  What is der to confess, yeh?  No sense in being ashamed of what y'don't know.  Knew not'ing o'd'forge before ah picked up d'ammah.  Wasn't ashamed of dat'doe.  Ah learnt.  Ah grew."

His fingers sifted through the items on his workbench.  He picked up a few shards of gleaming red stone and looked at them pinched tightly in his thick fingers.  "Ard t'say what I can make from it, little one, dey don't have plans or prints.  Y'jes work and... dey speak to ya, yeh? Some, some be easy.  You begin an' before y'know it y'already know what y'll do with it.  Others?"  He shrugged and made an 'eh' sound.  "Others are stubborn."

"Now," he placed the gleaming ruby shard on the workbench and picked up the large obsidian fingernail and tapped the sharpened tip with his finger.  "D'Native American pantheon is tricky.  No Scions among dem, but they're legends be very real, and sharp."  He set down the blackened nail and looked to Austin and Grim.  Noticing Grim with his bottle of Guinness and pointed a trunk of a digit at the young Aesir.  "You no git dat from me, yeh?  Now, ah ain't much for di storied m'self but as ah'ere it, she was once good and would sing to the spirits and di children of di tribes."  He shrugged.  "Eh, as always someting'appened, an... well, she lose dat light.  She lose dat part of 'er dat make is warm and motherly."

He nodded and looked off into the void of thought.  "See, das di problem wit'di people who were once good and now not.  Someting always made dem dat way.  It's a choice, yeh?  Dey call all mannah 'o tings, yeh, but in di end dey know in dey 'art or 'arts dat dey in the darkness now, in di muck an d'mire of the bad choices dey be makin', or made.  So, dey lash out.  She took from others what brought her di most joy... singing to di children.  Now, it is di song that undoes her.  Fate be freaky like dat, yeh?"

"Dey say she still sings from time to time. Alone, away from di World.  She was good once, an it still live inside'er."  He shrugged and went on fiddling with the pieces on his workbench.  "Dey say we all deserve redemption, yeh?  Maybe she do, may she don't.  A'jes make her parts into tings, yeh?"

"What about you?  Who are you?  How you come to be in all dis?  An for d'record, ah know how you come to be in all dis, in d'literal sense."  He reached behind him and pulled a large roll of paper out of a satchel hanging near his tools.  It looked like old parchment, several pieces all stacked and rolled into a neat scroll.  It was brown and frayed and made them all think of an old treasure map, or several in this case.  He took up a stick of charcoal that was in a large cup along with several others just like it and set about unrolling the parchment and getting to conceptualizing what the pieces were conveying to him.  "One or all.  Matter not t'me."

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Dale had remained silent since the Veil had lifted to reveal the door. She had had her Visitation not so long ago, and things of the surreal could baffle her easily. Maurice being a cyclops finished stunning her, and all she was able to do afterwards was to mechanically follow her new Band, walking inside their gigantic host's dwelling with the same silent amazement a kid would display for his first time in an amusement park.

Her black boots were softly sweeping on the hard ground, intimated that she was by the size of the interior, as she took a look around while listening to the cyclops with a distracted ear.

"I'm pretty much new to all of this... I wasn't even there when they got a hold of... Spearfinger's heart... ?" She replied to the cyclops with an uneasy voice.

Edited by Dale Garcia

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Austin considered the question for a moment.  "Would it be safe to say that making a single item will be ensure the item itself is more powerful?  Whereas making many would spread the effect, but likely weaken how powerful it is individually?"   It seemed logical to him.  "I think making a single relic is a better idea."   He looked to Nadya and smiled.  "You had the presence of mind to gather the shards, so this one should be yours."

It was true at least Rachel and Austin had been busy but all the same, they'd have nothing if Nadya hand't gathered them.

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"In high-falutin' strategic circles, that's known as putting all your eggs in one basket."  Grim's tone was so dry it pulled and tightened the skin of one's face like a desert wind.  "It's not my trophy, and I don't see myself as deserving a relic from it, but my advice is to distribute the power it provides amongst those who were present and took Spearfinger down.  For a couple of reasons."

"Go on."  Rachel looked at the raw-boned boy sipping the dark ale on an oversized stool, her eyes narrowing thoughtfully.

"First, having the power concentrated with Nadya means that if she gets put down, we're shit out of luck if we're depending on it.  We lose flexibility."  Grim took another swig of the porter, grimaced thoughtfully as he contemplated the bottle, then went on.  "Second, our relics, the gifts from our parents, are not supposed to be the be-all and end-all of our worth.  Having one exceptional relic in her possession lends itself to the temptation of Nadya using it as a crutch - of it becoming the hammer and every problem becoming a nail."

"Gee, thanks Glumsley."  the pixieish Romani girl stuck her tongue out at the somber figure, who smiled faintly.

"Consider it a compliment.  You don't need a crutch."  He took a drink as the others chewed over his words, looking at Maurice.  "I don't like talking about myself."  he said quietly.  "But seeing as I'm drinking your beer, I can give you the high points.  Mom died giving birth to me, never knew her.  Raised by my maternal grandpa, a mean old shit-stick who blamed me for his daughter's death."  His voice was cool and dispassionate, a matter of fact recounting rather than a tale told.  "When I turned fifteen, two trolls killed him and abducted me.  I stayed alive and uneaten by making myself useful and ingratiating myself to them until about a month ago when I had my visitation."

"You were gone a year and a half."  Rachel said quiet.  Grim smirked, a hard-edged quirk of his lips accompanied by a shrug of his bony shoulders.

"Time flies when you're trying to avoid a cookpot.  Anyway, then Hugin came on my father's behalf, guided me through my visitation, and here I am."  He spread his arms wide, one hand still holding his black wood staff and the other holding a beer bottle.

"An' de trolls?"  Maurice asked, looking up from his work.  Grim hesitated for a moment, then fished out something from under his t-shirt.  The pendant some had already seen, made of red-gold hair and with a large tusk or tooth suspended from it.

"Are no longer with us."  The scion of Odin answered with an air of finality as he held the pendant up so all could see it for a moment, then stuffed it back under his shirt.

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"Ah, vengeance then?  Good," the Greek cyclops, Maurice, offered a stern nod of his head.  "Nevah should it be far from y'art, but never should it out weigh justice, mm?  Speaking of vengeance, how fares d'daughter of Vidar?"  His single eyebrow arched at an angle as he glared, singularly, at Rachel.  "Eard y'pater came down for a visit, yeh?"

"You...?"  Rachel's wicked glare centered on the large cyclops whose thick fingers seemed impossibly dexterous the the small shards of the ruby heart.  Her voice seemed laced with her usual harshness of being irritated with the supernatural and their shenanigans.  She folded her arms and shifted her weight to one hip.  "Look, if you already know all about us, why are you asking?  Don't get me wrong, we are all greatly appreciative of you helping us out, but we, I mostly, have a very short tolerance for games."

"Fair," Maurice smiled.  Her tone didn't seem to rattle of shake his on going jovial mood.  "D'answer, is simple: hospitality.  You are young, you will make a lot of mistakes, dis'true, is no way around.  You have Archie, 'owevah.  Everything he does is to help you learn d'leetle lessons along d'way.  From the places you go, d'people you meet, from me to to d'witch lady, all of us be teaching you something.  Whether you notice or not, well, das not for me to say.  Hospitality is very important in our world.  No matter how powerful or weak you may feel you or we are, you must always remain hospitable.  It keeps things... civil.  Separates us from d'titans and der'spawn, yeh?"

"Many tings could be seen as a slight by many o'd'gods and their servants.  You must becareful how you deal with and treat those around you.  Nevah confuse your lineage as privilege.  You are mortal.  Your blood weak.  They are gods and they will never treat you like anything but a mortal until a god yourself you become.  They do not love you.  Dey are gods and incapable of love."

"What about Aphrodite," Nadya asked.  "She's the goddess of love."

Maurice laughed.  It was a cheerful bellow like Nadya had told a joke more than he was mocking her facts on the gods and godhood.  "Is she now?"  He chucked as his amusement slowed.  "Love is not a purview of d'gods.  Nor is good, or evil, or hate... all'dem are ours.  Humanity made them, only mortals can feel them, and gods are simply personifications of feelings and concepts that they themselves will never know.  For the sake of her maybe hearing me... I'll spare y'what Aphrodite is really known for," he cocked his eye brow again, appraising the entire group this time.  "Probably too young to know anyway."

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"I've read the books in the library." Fisher replied, amused by Maurice's point. "And yeah, I'm sure I'm old enough to know about Hephaestus and the chain trap." "Chains?" Nadya pounced on that comment, waggling her eyebrows. "If you want to know, go read the books. They'll suit that filthy imagination of yours." His smile disappeared after the jab. "They can't feel love though. ...I should have known."

Maurice looked at him, and Fisher felt the sympathetic encouragement. Holding it in wouldn't do him any good. "My mother is Izanami, Queen of Yomi, progenitor of the islands of Japan, She Who Invites. She who married dad, had me, and then left us when I was four. Came back the same time Austin, Nadya and Rachel's parents did, to tell me I'm a Scion, and whoop gone again. Not even a letter or text. My family's just as broken as before, except for the addition of relatives I know have their own issues with each other. But you're wrong, Maurice. She knows her concept: death." 

Fisher took a pull of the ginger ale. "A dead marriage, a dead mother, a dad who may as well be dead inside. I'm half-expecting to learn my house is built over a graveyard."

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"Broken family!?"  Maurice leaned away from Fisher's words like he was dodging them.  "Boy!  Y'need to meet a Spartan or two, dey will set y'straight on what family is.  You tink it's in the blood?  You think mom or dad are what make a family?  Pfft."  He waved a chuck of the ruby about as he expressed his words with a few and gestures.  "Look about y'boy.  People willing t'live for you.  T'die for you!  D'ere when you need dem, even d'ere when you don't.  D'as family.  You need one?  You want one?  Den look around you, d'been with you d'ole time.  An ah don' need to tell any of you... family will always be a pain in d'ass."

"Out of couriosity, when was d'ey last time you talked with her?"  The massive man went back to looking at his work, fiddling more with the shards like a modern Rubix Cube.  Death not a concept, little man.  Death simply is.  It is a natural 'ting.  You tink nothing would die if y'mother was no longer around?  D'gods, they simply are users of powers far greater d'en d'emselves.  In dis case, d'titans."

"We can talk to our parents?" Asked Austin.

"Of course, boy!"  Maurice chuckled a bit.  "D'ey gods.  Gods can always 'ere d'prayers of d'ose who invoke d'eir name.  Now," his head bobbed down in a bit to accent the shrug he was using to punctuate his statement.  "D'ey can't interfere wit d'lives of mortals, or, d'ey not supposed to, anyway, but d'ey always 'ere you.  Always.  It's d'eir answers that you have to look out for, because you can't always hear t'em."

Like, what?"  Nadya shrugged, shaking her head.  "Signs and portents and stuff like d'at?  Er, that.  Dang it, now I'm doing it."

Maurice chuckled again.  "Exactly.  Wolf is a good example.  One of your parents decided to save the child of d'guardian over finding d'ose responsible for going aftah d'guardian to begin with.  D'ey knew you would be bettah off doing t'good deed ovah doing d'necessary deed.  D'ey care about you.  In d'eir own way.  Trust Maurice."

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"My father is Kalfu." Dale's bitter voice rose from the side of the room as she leaned over the wall, for a short instant, before deciding she actually wanted to walk again. "He visited me a couple months ago." She paused and looked at her Bandmates. "Do you guys know how a Loa visits someone ? He possesses someone else. He did that to my mortal father and trust me, it's scary. A. F." She closed her eyes for a moment, then walked over to the fridge to grab a Coke, popped the top, and raised it a bit in Maurice's direction before taking a long sip.

"Two weeks later, a gang prick set our house on fire. My dad died in there. Police caught the guy who did that, but el pendejo coño hung himself up in his cell. And here I am. Simple as that."

After another short pause,  she glanced at the cyclops and, with a faint smile, added: "I like your place."

Edited by Dale Garcia

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"Tanks," Maurice offered the caramel toned beauty.  "Is no'much, but I don'need a 'ole lot.  Won'go sayin' any o'ya will 'ave an easy time o'tings.  D'lives of Scions is nevah an easy one, no.  Ow'evah you have d'powah to do so much.  To help so many.  Try an rememba dat it's not d'gods dat protect d'World, is you, yeh?"

His hands fiddled around a bit more as the sliding of stone and jewel could be heard until finally he stopped and his single brow raised inquisitively.  "D'art of Spearfinger could prove a powerful weapon in y'fight against d'people looking to'arm Salem.  But," he lifted it up to show the group.  It was solid again, like he had fastened every piece back together like a puzzle and the seams where the stone had shattered repaired themselves as he did so.  Now, the thing was the size of a typical human heart, the fatty tissue was hardened stone encasing the giant gem, but the brilliant shine and ruby light of it was gone.  The stone was nothing more than a heart shaped gemstone with it's red hue so dark it was almost black.  He pointed to a place near the heart's center, a shard like slot like a lock awaiting a key.  "D'er is a piece missing."

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Austin had wisely remained silent.   He butt heads with his step-dad, but his mom and siblings were great, and he had a home life he couldn't complain about.   In fact he fought very hard to keep his family safe.    It wasn't for him to get into that whole conversation.   When Maurice mentioned that a piece of the Heart was missing he looked to Nadya who'd been the one to gather it up.    It wasn't an accusation of holding back, in his own way he didn't believe she'd do that with them on something like this.  "Are you sure you got them all?"  His tone was polite,  it was just after a big battle, and to be fair, she'd been the only one to even think to pick up the pieces.   " I mean it's been abit, but I'll go back and see if I can find it, but that's gonna be like lookin for a needle in a big nasty haystack."

He definitely wasn't the best equipped to try that, unless it was underwater, but it'd still be really difficult to find.

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Grim pondered the missing piece - or rather the space Maurice had indicated where the missing piece had been - then 'hmmed', took a sip of the beer in his hand, and eyeballed Nadya.

"Don't even think it."  Nadya scowled at him, pouting as her gaze returned to the heart, confusion and frustration mingling in her eyes.  "I think I got all the pieces, Austin." she said plaintively.  "I was pretty careful, but I guess I coulda missed one."

"Hmm."  Grim repeated.  Nadya stuck her tongue out at him, but the mismatched green-and-grey eyes were focused on the middle distance now as Odin's scion stared into space.  "Who else was present?" he asked absently, tugging on an earlobe as he gazed off into nowhere.  "Anyone else that might have gotten close to the remnants of the creature's heart?"

"So you don't think it was me?"  Nadya sounded mildly surprised and relieved.

"Do I think you're a light-fingered magpie?  Yes, I do."  Grim looked at her with a wry smile.  "But I don't believe you'd sabotage the Band.  I've not seen anything in you that would lead me to that, which means the missing piece is either still out there, or someone grabbed it without you, Nadya, seeing them do so.  Which implies more than human stealth."

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Fisher sighed as the obvious answers came into place. "We weren't the only ones there. Dane and Eric Donner's Band helped us bring down Spearfinger, and Mr. Syracuse, the Sheriff and the teachers arrived the moment after we finished her off. Mr. Syracuse caught Nadya grabbing the heart shards, and I doubt he'd have missed the Donner Party trying something. The best I can guess is that he, Sheriff Farrow or one of the teachers grabbed the missing piece. What, some kind of teachable lesson?"

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"They couldn't," Rachel chimed up.  She began pacing about to add emphasis on her thoughts via movement.  "The teachers and Archimedes aren't permitted to directly involve themselves, so picking up the shard would be impeding our victory."

"Dane wouldn't screw us over," Nadya shook her head to sternly protect her friend.  "He's a great guy.  He'd have returned it to one of us by now."

Grimm nodded.  "I have to agree.  Dane doesn't seem like the sort to forget to return it, which leaves-"

Rachel's fist slammed into palm with a 'pop', loud enough to cut off Grimm's train of thought.  "Donner."  She uttered is name through grit teeth.  "I swear I'm going to wring that son of a bitch's neck."

Maurice, who had been listening to the Band, simply stroked his chin with his thumb and set the assembled, but incomplete heart on his work bench.  "D'at Donner, bad seed.  Poison in d'boy's art n' mind.  F'now, d'art is done.  No fuss, no muss.  If you find d'last piece, simply slide it in and it will do it's ting all on its own."

"Which is what, exactly?"  Rachel asked.

"Although consumed by d'darkness, d'ere is no'ting out 'dere devoid of d'light, save d'darkness itself."  Maurice started.  "Wit d'final piece d'art is imbued wit d'alst limmer of Spearfinger's light, d'Native American's virtue for community and it will protect dat community for d'evils of d'world."

"What kind of evil?"  Rachel pressed but Maurice simply shrugged.

"All kinds of evil out d'ere," he didn't look at the Band, just picked up the Spearfinger and began looking at it.  "Pick one."  He looked up after a moment and balanced the Spearfinger in his hand.  "D'is will take some time.  I must forge it.  No need to wait, I will let you kow when t'is done."

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